AVON LAKE — When Linda Goodwin and a small group of parents decided to form Avon Lake Unites for Teens in 2006 to try to inform the community about drug issues, the effort met with limited success.
“The community wasn’t ready to make changes,”said Goodwin, the city’s recreation program director.
Things began to change after four Avon Lake residents, all in their 20s, were lost to drug-related deaths in less than a year. At least one death is believed to have been heroin-related.
“When you lose four kids in a short period of time, it tends to get people’s attention,” Goodwin said. “I think people are ready now.”
The deaths occurred between August and April. One was a male who was in a drug detox and rehabilitation program, Goodwin said.
“That shows how vicious (drug addiction) is,” she said.
Mayor Greg Zilka credits Goodwin with motivating him to start the ball rolling for a community drug education forum at 6:30 p.m. June 11 at the Avon Lake Public Library.
The forum will be held in a room that holds approximately 200 people.
“I think we will fill it,” Zilka said.
Zilka thought a call for such a forum made last month during a City Council meeting might spark a negative backlash, but it has met with almost universally positive feedback.
An individual who had a negative response came around after further discussion over reasons for the meeting, Zilka said.
“We know we are not the only community suffering through this situation, and we hope that by educating the public, we can give people more confidence in dealing with this crisis on their own or with their family,” Zilka said. “We want people to know they’re not alone.”
The number of deaths from prescription drugs, heroin and other illegal substances in Lorain County soared from 22 in 2011 to 60 in 2012.
Goodwin knew she had to do something after the drug-related death of the fourth young person.
“Going to that last funeral was the last straw for me,” Goodwin said. “I knew I had to make an attempt to do something about it.”
The session will feature Avon Lake Municipal Court Judge Darrel A. Bilancini, Marva Jones, clinical director of the chemical dependency program at Psych & Psych Services in Elyria, and Lorain County Coroner Steven Evans.
The session is also set to feature a recovering drug addict and a family with a child going through the recovery process.
Goodwin praised Zilka for calling attention to the problem of drugs in the community.
“I’ve worked for the city for 10 years and have been through other administrations that did not respond,” Goodwin said. “Someone has to be willing to say publicly this is a problem. The only way we can help our kids and others is to empower our community with as much information and resources as we can.”
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.